A child's bedtime isn't a time for bed. It's a time for adventures in faraway lands, the arrival of animal companions and feats of derring-do and magic. Picture books in the early years spark the imagination like nothing else in later life. As we welcome our second personalised children's book, The Great Alphabet Chase, we ask a few Papier pals about their picture book memories and what's so special about reading with a little one at bedtime.
Mark Sperring, author of The Great Alphabet Chase
Being read bedtime stories is I think where my love of books began. I liked a series of books about a bear called Mary Plain, she was far less famous than Paddington but she completely captured my imagination.
Sharing a book at bedtime can be such a magical and soothing way to end the day. Nothing compares to the voice of a loved one breathing life into a story and the gentle swish of a turning page.
The Twits by Roald Dahl
Ellie Crewes, comic artist
I was read to at bedtime until I was about thirteen years old. It was (and still is) something I enjoyed so much. I didn't really watch TV before bed when I was a kid because me and my brother were encouraged to play in our room, so a bedtime story was a really exciting thing.
I loved My Naughty Little Sister (maybe because she was ginger like me?) and we had a collection of Roald Dahl stories in one large book – The Minpins was my favourite in that mostly for the Terrible Blood-suckling Tooth-puckling Stone-chuckling Spittler!
Most nights I listen to an audiobook to fall asleep, I've just finished listening to the final section of the Northern Lights series. There's something really basic and calming about being read to, it feels much more natural than staring at a laptop screen before sleeping, and I think adding a children's story into the mix can only make for a better night – especially if it's a book you already know!
The Great Alphabet Chase from Papier
Rose Blake, illustrator of The Great Alphabet Chase
I can vividly remember being read bedtime stories every night and with such fondness. My dad’s words always used to get slower and slower and he would usually fall asleep before I did. I loved being read to as I fell asleep, it made me feel totally secure and safe.
My favourites were all the Enid Blyton stuff: The Magic Faraway Tree, all the Famous Five and Secret Seven books. Everything by Roald Dahl, especially Danny the Champion of the World, Just William and My Naughty Little Sister.
Katie Leamon, designer
When I was young, bedtime was an exciting, warm lovely time when you got to snuggle up, feel safe, and let your imagination run wild into the story. It’s the most special time of day... I remember my mum tucking me into bed way into my teens and it was our time to discuss anything I wanted that maybe I was too shy to during the day. Stories had been replaced by a catch up and invaluable bonding time.
For me, in a digital age, it’s even more important for that time to be spent reading to children. Letting them explore their imagination, letting them tell their own stories, build characters and indulge in a bit of silliness everyday. It's something to do together which no digital device can ever replace; they are tangible, and interactive in a way nothing else compares to. Myself or my husband Ruairi have read to our son Baloo everyday since he was born and he absolutely LOVES books. It was one of his first words!
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
Poppy Chancellor, artist
I loved bedtime stories so much that I couldn't sleep afterwards, I was so excited. I'd get lost in the illustrations. Even now when I recall a book I remember the images like I'm walking through them.
My mum read me all the stories she was read by her mum as a child. We'd read books from the 60s and earlier. What was amazing is that they were physically the same books, mum had kept them all. I loved the huge picture books of Orlando the Marmalade Cat, Babar, Flat Stanley, and The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Their illustrations are cemented in my memory and the original cover artworks are so beautiful and nostalgic.
Jade Fisher, illustrator
I remember the cosiness of the bedtime routine: bath, pyjamas, then settle into bed with my mum or dad, having a little chat and reading a book. I had a Christmas book about a girl and her reindeer with beautiful illustrations, and I remember being mesmerised by The Whale’s Song. I felt in awe of what was out in the big wide world with those stories, whilst all snug in my bed at home.
My favourites were actually the ones that my dad made up. He told us them all our lives and now tells my niece the same ones, and we all roll our eyes because we’ve heard them so many times. Over the years I’ve made various versions of homemade books with his stories in.
All The Things I Wish For You from Papier
Rebecca Intavarant, designer at Tuppence Collective
My sister and I used to have some great bedtime stories read to us by a family friend called Maeve. It was such a treat when she read because she’d use voices and expressions to really bring the stories to life. The most memorable book was Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. Each time she visited she’d read a chapter and we couldn’t wait to go to bed to find out what happened next.
I think it’s so important to encourage reading from a tangible book – nothing beats those memories of different textures, smells and turning pages.
Eleanor Taylor, illustrator
My dad read a lot of stories – mainly at the weekend when he wasn't working. I remember him cracking open a beer and reading Tintin and Asterix – I think he enjoyed it as much I did.
One of my favourite stories was The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch. It would probably now look a bit dated. The lighthouse keeper's wife makes him a lunch every day and sends it down a zip wire to the lighthouse, but the seagulls keep attacking and eating it so he has to think of inventive ways to keep them away. I loved it first of all because I loved stories about food and also because I wanted to be a lighthouse keeper.
I think spending the time to sit down and read a children's books is even more important now, it means you have to focus on two things – the book and the child. I remember how battered and well used my picture books were – the little rips and bends in the page are a testament to how much I loved bedtime stories.
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Emma Block, illustrator
I loved having a bedtime story read to me when I was little. I think the illustrations were my favourite part, which is not surprising. I used to sleep with a picture book under my pillow every night in the hope that I would dream about the story.
I loved stories about strange and wonderful things happening to ordinary children, like The Tiger Who Came to Tea. There is something so lovely about reading a picture book and the natural rhythm that turning a page creates.
Michelle Kennedy, founder of Mums app Peanut
My dad used to read stories to me when I was young. As I got older, I would read to him. I think I really looked forward to just that time before bed where you're taken away to a different place. It was exciting. I still love that about books: escapism and adventure.
I loved reading the Roald Dahl books and I'm now reading those with my son Finlay. We're on to James and the Giant Peach. Having a book is like nothing else. You need to pore over the words, to touch it, it's sensory.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Jayde Perkin, comic artist
I remember feeling all cosy and cuddled up with duvet and pillows, but yet the stories meant that I was still able to get whisked away to a magical different land, all from the comfort of my bed! My favourites were The Hungry Caterpillar, The Little Prince, Corduroy, The Velveteen Rabbit, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
There's something really satisfying about physically turning each page, something which can also be done together, and each new page brings you into a new and exciting place and setting. The more loved books are, the more worn around the edges they become.
If you want to join a little one in your life on a personalised adventure of their own, create one of our children's picture books – and memories they'll treasure forever.